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Name: U.S. v. Turvin
Case #: 06-30551
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 02/26/2008

Police officers do not need reasonable suspicion to ask questions unrelated to the purpose of an initially lawful traffic stop if the stop is not unreasonably prolonged by the questioning. An Alaska State Trooper stopped Turvin for minor traffic violations. After the stop, the trooper talked to Turvin for three to four minutes about the violations he had observed and then returned to his patrol vehicle to write out a traffic citation. A second officer who arrived on the scene recognized Turvin’s name as he knew that a “rolling meth lab” had been found in Turvin’s vehicle during a previous traffic stop and communicated the information to officer 1. Officer 1 stopped writing the citation and, after turning on a tape recorder, recontacted Turvin and told him he knew about the prior incident and eventually obtained consent to search the vehicle. Upon doing so, he located a sawed off shotgun and methamphetamine. The entire encounter was approximately 14 minutes. The lower court held that the search was unlawful as the subsequent questioning unreasonably prolonged the stop. The appellate court reversed, holding that mere police questioning does not constitute a seizure and no reasonable suspicion is required to justify questioning that does not unduly prolong an initially lawful stop. (Muehler v. Mena (2005) 544 U.S. 93.) Here, under the totality of the circumstances, the officer’s conduct was reasonable and the detention was no longer than an ordinary traffic stop would take. Thus, there was no violation of the detainee’s Fourth Amendment rights.